William Tell '84: 30 Years Later

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Matt Hecht
  • 177th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
30 years ago this month, the 177th Fighter Wing - then known as the 177th Fighter Interceptor Group - competed for the first and only time in the William Tell Weapons Meet at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. 55 Airmen with 5 aircraft competed for 23 days, winning multiple awards in the process.

Officially known as the United States Air Force Air to Air Weapons Meet, William Tell was first held in Yuma, Ariz. in 1954. In 1958, the competition was moved to Tyndall AFB. Held every two years, William Tell would originally see units from Air Defense Command compete, but this was later expanded to include Air National Guard as well as Canadian units. The competition not only included aircrew, but also weapons loaders, weapons controllers, and maintenance personnel.

William Tell '84 would be the last year the Convair F-106 Delta Dart would compete.

Chief Master Sgt. Wayne Baggstrom, then a Staff Sgt. working as a Fire Control Systems Technician, looked back on William Tell '84 as an amazing experience.

"It was an awesome feeling of pride and honor being invited to attend such a prestigious event. Only the best would attend and we were the best the Air National Guard had to offer with the oldest jets and some of the oldest maintainers," said Baggstrom. "As a young Staff Sgt., I was relied upon to represent the Guard and perform to exacting standards. Looking our sharpest, we choreographed launch and recovery procedures and worked for months as a tight knit team, tweaking the selected jets and looking out for their every need to make sure they met the highest degree of reliability, performance, and aesthetics."

The 177th FIG competed in Category III, the F-106 Delta Dart heat, and in the air side of the competition flew in 5 different profiles to score points. The Jersey Devils won the overall F-106 team award, which recognized the unit as the best in its category in the world. Maj. Lynn Robinson picked up the top gun award, scoring 8,020 out of a possible 10,000 points.

"The entire team did extremely well," said Robinson in a 1984 interview. "We had about three minutes to accomplish the mission or to fall flat on our face. There was a lot of pressure on everybody and I'm thankful our efforts paid off."

The Jersey Devils also won three special achievement awards - Professional and Competitive Spirit, Overall Best Looking Aircraft, and Best Looking Individual Aircraft. The team also picked up three Industrial awards for being the best F-106 unit in the Air Force.

"It was an amazing life experience that few get to enjoy in their professional careers," said Baggstrom. "We competed in a world class event and performed to world class standards. It was truly an honor to be a member of the maintenance team that represented the 177th."